Hillary Clinton Fuels 2016 Speculation at Final Harkin Steak Fry

Sep 15, 2014

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Former President Bill Clinton and Senator Tom Harkin flip steaks at the final Tom Harkin Steak Fry.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

Former Secretary of State and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton returned to Iowa Sunday for the first time since her 3rd place finish in the Iowa Caucuses in 2008.   She was the featured speaker at retiring  Democratic Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry.  Even Harkin admitted she stole the show. 

Senator Harkin took the stage before some ten thousand activists and said this is a hell of a crowd:

“And to think you all came here just to see me,” Harkin joked with the crowd.  “Who am I kidding? You've had some steak now it’s time for some sizzle.”

Senator Tom Harkin gives his final Steak Fry Speech. He retires at the end of the year.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

Hillary Clinton returned to the Iowa political stage, looking out over row after row of  “Ready for Hillary t-shirts.”

“Hello Iowa!  I'm back!” She shouted. “And I’m  so glad to be back on with all of you on this beautiful  day.   It does feel like yesterday that I was last here at the Harkin steak fry.”

That was 2007 when Clinton was part of a crowded field of Democratic candidates.  Seven years later when Senator Harkin invited her back.

“I wasn't sure what to say,” Clinton said. “I've got a few things on my mind these days.”

Clinton said the first thing on her mind is the anticipated arrival of her first grandchild.

“And then of course there's that other thing,” Clinton said. “It is true I am thinking about it.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the final Harkin Steak Fry.
Credit Clay Masters/IPR file photo

But on Sunday Clinton spoke only on behalf of other  Democratic  candidates up and down the ticket in Iowa.  It was the first of what will likely be other such speeches across the country, which will keep her out in front of  Democratic activists while she weighs  another presidential bid.    Former President Bill Clinton, who also spoke, is known for his loquacious remarks from the stump:

“I don't want this to be like one of those officer installation banquets s where everything's been said but not everybody's said it yet,” Bill Clinton said. “So I will try to be briefer.”

President Clinton spoke only a little longer than Secretary Clinton, reminded Democratic activists “when Democrats show up we win.”  All those Ready for Hillary t-shirts are the work of a nationwide PAC urging Hillary Clinton to run.  Adviser Tracy Sefl said they came for the steak fry to sign up volunteers in the first in the nation caucus state.

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the final Harkin Steak Fry.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

“We will have an army across the state who will be with her should she run,” Sefl said.  “They’ll be in full force for the caucuses should she run.  We know how important Iowa is.”

But some activists bring a checkered past to the 2016 race.   Former state legislator Eric Palmer says back in 2008 he first supported Vice-President Joe Biden, then went for Obama when Biden dropped out. He called Hillary Clinton one possible choice this time.

“I’m sure Vice-President Biden is coming back, thinking about another run,” said Palmer. “There’s that governor from the east coast whose name escapes me.”

That would be Maryland governor Martin O’Malley.

“I saw him speak and he's a very good speaker,” Palmer said. “And  of course Hillary.”

Many Hillary supporters believe she will run again, and she said nothing at the steak fry to dispel that. She said she learned something from Senator Harkin’s long career in politics.

“When you get knocked down, get right back up,” Clinton said.

That’s advice Clinton’s supporters hope she will take when it comes to another presidential campaign.